Meru

LetterboxD review link

I can’t believe how talented Jimmy Chin is. A world class climber, skier, photographer, cinematographer, director, and now documentarian. Meru did not feel like a debut documentary. All the footage, editing and pacing felt very well situated among contemporary documentaries. If I had to guess, this is largely because he studied the genre. Like his knowledge of climbing and mountaineering, success depends to a great degree on study and preparation. I imagine Chin and his collaborators studied the genre before producing this film. The biggest missing piece, though, was that Chin’s talents are clear as a mountain climber and photographer but a little less impressive as a theorist. Bringing in Jon Krakauer, chronicler of all things weird or extreme in America, was helpful but an overall theory of why men would attempt to ascend this mountain was lacking.

This was a small plot point but one that stuck with me. I found it so strange that Conrad Anker married his best friend’s wife after seeing his best friend die in an avalanche. He was clearly suffering deeply from survivor’s guilt, but coming home, falling in love with your best friend’s widow and adopting his children - what a torrent of emotions that must create. Marriage is complicated enough, introducing this huge wrinkle seems incredible to me. But then, I guess “not-incredible” is not a description of a man who climbs a mountain for 20 days. I was even more fascinated with what their kids must think of all this. What if they just wanted a normal life?

My favorite part of the documentary and of their approach to mountaineering was that everything was assessed as a risk with a probability of success or failure. There are very few things we do in life that have zero prior belief or information to assess probabilities. I try to made decisions in my life in this way, but seeing it applied to something on the scale of mountaineering was amazing.